As legislators, one of the things we strive to do is not only to fix problems, but to reward people who contribute to society. Few contribute as much as our men and women in uniform, who by serving sacrifice so much to ensure that we have continued freedom and security here at home. We have a number of bills this legislative session that help address active military and veterans.
One of these bills is a bill that I have talked to you about before, Senate Bill (SB) 260. This legislation authorizes local municipalities to give financial support to military bases. In light of recent events at the federal level, this bill has become even more relevant than before. On Monday, United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a proposal to shrink our Army to its smallest size in 74 years, which includes the closure of several bases across the country.
While at the federal level, they are discussing serious cuts, here in Indiana we are doing everything possible to support our military and do everything we can to help the bases that call Indiana home. In a matter of one week, SB 260 went from being a precautionary measure, to solving what appears to be an imminent problem.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane contributes more than $730 million a year to the Hoosier economy. This money is crucial to the daily economic success of our state, and it is imperative that we not only nurture this revenue source but also encourage the strong military capability that exists there. This is an issue that the General Assembly strongly agrees on as SB 260 has now been unanimously passed by both the House and Senate.
In addition, the House and Senate have unanimously agreed that we must continue to serve our troops after their service to our country has ended. Indiana veterans have several needs, the greatest of which is jobs. Indiana’s veteran unemployment rate is at a staggering 20.3 percent, in stark contrast with Indiana’s overall unemployment rate, which is under 7 percent. It is clear that when we attempt to tackle unemployment in Indiana, our veterans need special attention. That is where SB 331 comes in.
SB 331 establishes the Second Service for Veterans Program to attract students who are veterans to become teachers. State educational institutions will be required to award educational credit to veterans who completed courses at a postsecondary institution that is regionally accredited and meets the institution’s role, scope, and mission. State universities will also be required to provide academic and career counseling specifically designed for veteran students in the school of education. This legislation will help provide another opportunity for Hoosier veterans to find jobs once they leave the service, and is a win-win for Indiana.
More veterans will be employed as a result, and our kids will be taught by men and women who are not only well educated, but also possess real-life experience and leadership skills. These are qualities you can’t teach through a textbook; you have to see and experience them, and there is no better way to do that than through the men and women of this state who have the utmost integrity.
Our men and women in uniform sacrifice their careers, time with their families and even their lives to serve our country. There is not always a legislative fix for the problems facing our state; however I think everyone can agree that if we as legislators can help our Hoosier heroes even a little bit, we should do everything possible to ensure these pieces of legislation are given proper consideration.
There is clearly a contrast between our priorities in Indiana and those at the federal level and in this case, that is a good thing. I am encouraged by the support that these bills have garnered, and I am proud to serve in a body which has so much respect for our military.